Eve's Apology in Defense of Women


Aemilia Lanyer uses irony and sarcasm in her poem, "Eve's Apology in Defense of Women". She uses sarcasm to address the issue of female inequality, and uses imagery and ironic undertones to make the poem effective.
In the first stanza, Lanyer begins the poem with an image of women being equal with men and at times even better. She states that Pilate should have listened to his wife when she asked him to spare her savior, Jesus' life. Lanyer is establishing the theme of defending women because she is putting Pilate's wife in a holier and more esteemed position than him. She begged for "her Saviour's life" (8), and yet, Pilate did not take her advice, and opted instead to have nothing to do with it, which was more cowardly than what his wife would have done.
She continues this theme into the next stanzas using the fall of Adam and Eve to defend women. Lanyer plays on the age-old idea; men are stronger and superior to women. Therefore, if women are weak, she argues it is in fact men who are more at fault for the fall of humankind because it should have been expected for women to succumb to the power of temptation. Adam's acceptance of the fruit is inexcusable because he is supposedly stronger than Eve and should have been able to resist her temptation. "What weakness offered, strength might have refused, Being lord of all, the greater was his shame?For he was lord and king of all the earth, Before poor Eve had either life or breath" (35-36, 39-40). This statement is ironic because Lanyer does not believe that women are weak or that men are stronger. She goes on to chide Adam for "lay(ing) the fault on Patience' back" (49) and wonders why women must put up with the stigma attached with being held responsible for the fall of humankind. It wasn't that he was "persuaded" (54) by Eve to eat the apple, it was that he lacked discretion. Lanyer gives the idea that Eve was betrayed by the serpent's "falsehood" (55), but because Adam is superior to Eve, he was not betrayed by the serpent, rather he chose to eat of the apple. Eve's only fault is that she wished to give a gift to her "dear" (58), however, he had the strength to decline the offering and did not.
Lanyer questions in the next stanzas why it is that Eve is still at fault for the fall of mankind (when we have found that Adam should be at fault anyway) when Pilate condemned God's own son, Jesus Christ, to death. Eve succumbed to the serpent out of her weakness, but Pilate betrayed Jesus out of malicious intent. Lanyer queries why it is that Eve's sin, which is so small in comparison to Pilate's condemnation of Jesus, is to be the source of all mortal sins, but Pilate's is far more severe.
The proclamation, "Then let us have our liberty again" is a direct statement by Lanyer addressing all men. She asks them to quit condemning women as the essential root of evil, and she challenges them to quit claiming themselves as dominant over women, "and challenge to yourselves no sovereignty" (82). She continues that all men have come into the world through "our pain" (83), the pain of their mothers, and that men are cruel because although they are brought into the world through the pain of their mothers, yet they still consider women as inferior to men. The fault of man was greater than that of woman, therefore, why are men so opposed to being equal to women, when in fact they should be happy to not suffer oppression because of the greater sin. She ends this imagery by telling men that if they hold all women responsible for mortal sin because of the fault of "one weak woman" (87) then, the sin committed by Pilate should prove that men who consider themselves superior to women are inexcusable. For men to feel that they are somehow better than women, the bearer's of all children who endure suffering to give them life, it is a sin because they are suppressing their own mother's. She goes on to say that if Eve offended man because of her simple mistake, then the mistake of Adam for knowingly deceiving God "hath no excuse nor end" (88) in